TNT had significant blunders in their network debut on Wednesday, most notably talking over goals by Justin Schultz and Hendrix Lapierre (his first career NHL goal) while focusing on a discussion in the studio.
It should probably be expected for an inaugural broadcast. Let’s hope it only improves. Ratings for the inaugural broadcast, however, were a blockbuster for the NHL’s newest broadcast partner.
According to Sports Media Watch, TNT’s first-ever NHL regular season game, Rangers-Capitals on Wednesday night, averaged 817,000 viewers — the largest audience on record for an NHL game on the second night of the season. Viewership jumped 243% from Wild-Predators on NBCSN in 2019 (238K). There was no nationally televised game on the second night of last season, which began months later than usual in January.
The Blackhawks-Avalanche nightcap drew 522,000. Viewership peaked at 920,000 for Rangers-Capitals and at 887,000 for Blackhawks-Avalanche.
The ratings come on the heels of ESPN’s record-setting opening night on Tuesday. Tuesday’s Penguins-Lightning NHL Opening Night game averaged 983,000 viewers on ESPN, the league’s largest Opening Night audience ever on cable (dates back to 1993). The previous high was 956,000 for Flyers-Bruins on NBCSN in 2014.
Regardless of network, it was the largest audience for the first national NHL telecast of any season since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign — when the season opened with a regional window on NBC (Blackhawks-Kings or Flyers-Penguins: 2.8M).
The Penguins-Lightning game increased 36% from Capitals-Blues on NBCSN in October 2019, the last traditional (pre-pandemic) Opening Night (983K). Last season’s first game, Flyers-Penguins on a Wednesday afternoon in January, averaged 932,000 on NBCSN.
In Tuesday night’s late game, the Kraken-Golden Knights averaged 783,000 — up 107% from Sharks-Golden Knights in ’19 (379K).
By Jon Sorensen